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Interviews on Radovan Karadzic Trial and Iranian Nuclear Program

Aired October 26, 2009 - 16:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, international inspectors visit Iran's latest nuclear facility for the first time. And will Iran send its stockpile of enriched uranium abroad? A key member of the U.N. Security Council, the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, will join me.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the program.

This weekend, inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, made their first visit to Iran's nuclear facility nearly the holy city of Qom, the one that was revealed a month ago by U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and the British prime minister, Gordon Brown. But now there seems to be a public disagreement in Iran over whether to send its enrichment uranium to Russia for processing.

And tonight, Moscow is also taking note of the war crimes trial of the former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic. It was supposed to start today, but Karadzic boycotted the opening session, saying that he needs more time to prepare his defense, despite having been arrested 15 months ago.

But joining me now, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin.

And welcome to the program, Mr. Churkin.

VITALY CHURKIN, RUSSIAN U.N. AMBASSADOR: Thank you very much, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Just start first with Iran. The latest is that, on Sunday, the inspectors from the IAEA went to the Qom facility, the Revolutionary Guard facility that has been revealed as a nuclear facility. Is it at possible yet to say what was discovered there?

CHURKIN: I don't think so. They -- they will keep working tomorrow. And within a matter of days, I suppose they will report to the IAEA and make their conclusions about what they saw there.

AMANPOUR: So let's move on, then, to this really interesting deal that seems to have been struck between Iran, the IAEA, and the member nations, Russia very key to this low-enriched uranium deal. Right now, there seems to be differing opinions from inside Iran, with the foreign minister saying they're looking at it favorably, at least a certain amount of LEU, and the speaker of the Iranian parliament saying that this is likely cheating by the West of -- of Iran's nuclear program.

What do you think is going to happen? Will they send it out?

CHURKIN: Well, I think -- I think this is a very important opportunity for the Iranians to alleviate some of the concerns about their intentions. This is a scheme on which we have waiting -- working for quite a while, discussing it with the United States, IAEA, and others. And, of course, we hope that this proposal, which was made by Mr. ElBaradei as a results of the expert meeting which took place in Vienna several days ago, that this proposal, now that it has been by and large accepted by Russia, France, the United States, it would also be acceptable for the Iranians. And that -- that -- that's an important opportunity for them. I hope they will take it.

AMANPOUR: Well, we understand that President Obama did telephone your president, the Russian president, yesterday or over the weekend urging him to urge Iran to -- to -- to abide by the deal.

CHURKIN: No, we have been -- we have been working very hard with the Iranians. And we have taken advantage of all the channels available, high- level, highest level, foreign minister, president, our diplomatic level activities, so we've been trying to be as persuasive as we can, and we have been also urging the United States all along to join in the talks.

Now, on this broader issue of the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranians have this great opportunity of -- of talks having started. They have to show that they're serious about those talks. For the six, the United States, Russia, France, U.K., Germany, and -- and China, the most important issue is the Iranian nuclear issue. The Iranians have a broader agenda for those talks. The six do not refuse to go into this broader agenda, but, of course, we expect the Iranians also to engage in a serious discussion on the Iranian nuclear program.

AMANPOUR: And what is the best you can hope for? How much uranium needs to be transferred to Russia for reprocessing?

CHURKIN: Well, you know, this is -- this particular issue of the -- of the enriched uranium in Natanz and its use for the Tehran nuclear reactor, I don't know what exact figures are contained in Mr. ElBaradei's proposal. I hope they are going to accept the proposal as it stands. The very symbol of it is important, Iran showing that they do not want to keep (inaudible) enriched uranium and they are prepared to use it for their research reactor.

AMANPOUR: It's something in the region of 70 percent, according to the IAEA, but let me ask you this: If Iran does not come -- come up with this agreement as -- as you've just outlined, would Russia then be more inclined to support the West on what it wants, which is tougher punitive measures, like sanctions?

CHURKIN: You know, this issue of Natanz, it's a very important symbolic gesture, but it's not the core issue.


The core issue is the one involved in the discussion of the six and Tehran started with -- by Mr. Solana on October the 1st, supposed to be continued in the course of the months of October. They are now discussing the dates of restarting the talks.

AMANPOUR: Would Russia be more inclined?

CHURKIN: We need to assess the situation every step of the way. It's -- it's very hard what the assessment of the general situation is going to be. Much will depend on their response to the Natanz issue, of course, that will be positive factor if they were to accept the ElBaradei proposal. Much will depend on how they go into the continuation of the talks between the six and -- and Iran.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me just try to clear something up or have you try to clear something up. Your foreign minister, Mr. Lavrov, said something about sanctions that, no, it wasn't a good thing, and they wouldn't be going that way, whereas your president, Mr. Medvedev, said that actually sometimes sanctions are inevitable.

CHURKIN: Everybody from...

AMANPOUR: Where does Russia stand?

CHURKIN: ... from Moscow -- from Moscow has been saying exactly the same thing. At this point -- at this point, the bottom line is that it's not a good time to discuss the sanctions. Now we have an important diplomatic opportunity. We're going on three tracks, the visit -- the visit of IAEA inspectors to -- to Qom, the talks about the Natanz enriched uranium and its use in Tehran reactor, and the overall issue of the Iranian nuclear program and the relations between Iran and -- and the world, if you will.

AMANPOUR: So if it's not a good time to talk about sanctions, is it a good time to ask Russia, what would make Russia nervous? As you know, America, Europe, Israel, they believe that Iran is in some way or another working towards a nuclear weapons capability. Russia doesn't believe that.

Yet you've all got access to pretty much the same kind of -- or Russia -- Russia is not as nervous as the other countries. What is it that would make Russia nervous? Is it testing a weapon? Is it highly enriching uranium to weapons grade?

CHURKIN: Russia -- Russia -- Russia is never nervous. Sometimes we are concerned. And in this particular case, we are concerned that there must be full satisfaction that the Iranian nuclear program does not involve a military component, that they're not moving in the direction of -- of producing a nuclear weapon.

At this point, nobody -- Russia or anybody else -- nobody has any indication, any proof that, in fact, they are -- they have a military program in -- in their -- in their nuclear activities. But there have been some unanswered questions. Some of them have been answered over the years very slowly. We hope that all of them are going to be answered in the course of Iran's dialogue with IAEA, and we hope that the -- the contacts, the -- the negotiations between the six and Iran are going to help that happen.

AMANPOUR: Let's move on to the issue of human rights, Radovan Karadzic's trial. Just briefly, Russia is part of the Security Council. What do you think is going to come out of it? Is it going to be another fiasco, like we had with Slobodan Milosevic, who hijacked the proceedings and died without ever having a sentence?

CHURKIN: Well, I -- I hope it's going to be a fair and objective trial. We have known situations when, for example, Mr. Milutinovic, the former president of Serbia, was held in the Hague for five years only to be found innocent. The accusations against Mr. Karadzic are -- are very tough.

AMANPOUR: Genocide, crimes against humanity.

CHURKIN: Yes, very -- very tough accusations. And we all remember the horrible things which happened...

AMANPOUR: In Bosnia.

CHURKIN: ... during his watch in -- in Bosnia. But we -- we -- we have supported the activities of -- of the international tribunal in the former Yugoslavia. As -- as a matter of fact, our complaint about it was that it was sometimes too lenient when it was dealing, for example, with Kosovo Liberation Army, figures and -- and other situations like this.

But objective consideration of the crimes which are being reviewed by -- by the tribunal, we believe that is absolutely necessary.

AMANPOUR: And what about human rights and accountability in your own country? Just this weekend, yet another Russian activist, campaigner on human rights was gunned down, this after Natalya Estemirova in the summer, several years after Anna Politkovskaya, and et cetera, et cetera. It goes on without accountability. What is Russia going to do about that?

CHURKIN: Well, it's pretty horrible, isn't it?


CHURKIN: And our authorities are investigating matters. We do have a rather complex situation in Northern Caucasus and some areas, Ingushetia, for example.

AMANPOUR: But will you hold them accountable? This is...

CHURKIN: Well, this is...

AMANPOUR: ... a question that many observers want to know.

CHURKIN: Absolutely. There is very tough ongoing investigation of those things. And, of course, we hope that we'll find the perpetrators and they will be duly punished.

AMANPOUR: Because, for instance, Politkovskaya, I mean, that's been going on for a long time, and there's no resolution in the courts at all.

CHURKIN: Well, this is -- this is too bad. I can only say that this is too bad. I hope and we all hope that things could be done quicker and that perpetrators were -- I mean, as you know, some people were brought to trial on -- in the case of Anna Politkovskaya, but...

AMANPOUR: But it was never the key ones.

CHURKIN: ... they were not the key ones, but even they were not found guilty by the jury. And they -- they were let go. So there is a certain - - of course, it's very hard to investigate those things, I suppose. And the legal process is not simple, as well.

AMANPOUR: Well, we want you back. We're going to talk to you more, hopefully, in the days and weeks to come, including about the so-called reset of relations between the U.S. and Russia. But for now, thank you so much for joining us, Ambassador Churkin.


CHURKIN: Thank you. Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And next, families of those people who were killed in Bosnia protest at the war crimes trial of Radovan Karadzic in the Hague. I covered the war in Bosnia, the siege of Sarajevo, and the indictment of Karadzic. And in a moment, I'll talk to the man who, among other things, indicted him. Stay with us.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Self-styled president of the small Serb entity he carved in Bosnia, Karadzic's flamboyance veered from poetry-loving silver-haired Serb nationalist to leader of Europe's most brutal experiment in racial purity since World War II. He always portrayed the Serbs as the real victims.

RADOVAN KARADZIC, BOSNIAN SERB LEADER: The West does not understand and does not know Serbs enough. Serbs are squeezed, cornered. Serbs are endangered, and Serbs are right now in a very dangerous state of mind, in terms of readiness for sacrifice.

AMANPOUR: By May 1995, the war had reached a critical point. While talking peace, Bosnian Serb forces kept bombing. They took 248 U.N. peacekeepers hostage. And in July that year, they committed the worst single atrocity seen in Europe since the Second World War. They overran the small Muslim town of Srebrenica, which had been designated a U.N. safe area, and they went on an orgy of mad executions that to this day has left more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys missing.


AMANPOUR: Karadzic wasn't arrested until July 2008 after spending 13 years on the run and in this disguise. He was detained on an arrest warrant south in 1995 by Judge Richard Goldstone, who was then the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague for the former Yugoslavia. That was from 1994 to 1996.


AMANPOUR: Richard Goldstone joins me now here in the studio. Welcome back again to our program.


AMANPOUR: Nice to have you on. Let us talk about Karadzic. Didn't turn up, threatened to boycott, everybody thought, well, he will turn up in the end, but he hasn't turned up. This is now becoming a pattern. Is the credibility of the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague at stake?

GOLDSTONE: Absolutely. You know, it was -- there was a lot of criticism and huge frustration, understandably, when Milosevic died before the end of the trial and the delays he caused.

AMANPOUR: Having hijacked the entire proceeding.

GOLDSTONE: Well, absolutely. And I -- it seems to me Karadzic is now following the same pattern and trying to do the same thing.

AMANPOUR: Did you take any comfort from what the judge said today? I mean, he basically said that, you know, you better turn up eventually, otherwise there'll be unspecified penalties or actions taken. What can they do?

GOLDSTONE: Well, they can do very little, other than impose counsel on him, appoint counsel to appear over his process. His own counsel has -- is claiming an extra nine months delay because of the need to...

AMANPOUR: Nine months?

GOLDSTONE: Nine months, which -- which is nonsense. I mean, you know, to have another -- have another nine-month delay. But Karadzic had said he won't appear unless he gets that -- that postponement.


AMANPOUR: And can they -- can that actually happen? I mean, for instance, we saw during the Milosevic case, Slobodan Milosevic was indicted, first sitting head of state to have been indicted, finally came before the tribunal, and refused to recognize it, refused to have a lawyer, defended himself, and really made a mockery of the whole system. Do the judges not have any jurisdiction or any power in which to compel the accused to come before them?

GOLDSTONE: Of course, they can. I think they were far too lenient with -- with Milosevic. And I think they should have told him that, of course, you have the right to defend yourself, but it's not an unlimited right. And if you abuse it, if you don't play according to the rules, our rules, the rules of the court, then we're not going to allow you to -- to participate.

AMANPOUR: So what do you think they should say now to Karadzic? And does he have defense?

GOLDSTONE: Well, I think the judges should tell Karadzic -- and I think this is, I hope, what will happen tomorrow. It's now being stood down from today until tomorrow afternoon at 2:15 in the Hague. I think they should tell him, if you don't participate, we're going to appoint court counsel to appear for you.

Of course, that will result in somewhat of a delay, because they're going to appoint new counsel who will need time to get up to speed, but it's not going to take nine months.

AMANPOUR: But tell me something, Karadzic was arrested and brought in July of last year, of '08.

GOLDSTONE: Right, right.

AMANPOUR: I mean, how could it be right now on the verge of him coming into court that this explodes?

GOLDSTONE: Well, this is part of the tactic to try and make it as difficult for the court as possible.

AMANPOUR: His tactic. But why didn't the court put its foot down earlier?

GOLDSTONE: Well, you know, they couldn't do it before. He appeared. He refused to plead to the charges. They later entered a plea of not guilty in his name. And, presumably -- and I've got no doubt -- anticipated that he would appear today for the beginning of the trial. It was only last week that he indicated that he wouldn't.

AMANPOUR: So we've got Karadzic. We've spoken about Milosevic, who went on for years and then died without any sentence coming down. We know that another court, the ICC, has indicted President Bashir of Sudan. He shows no sign of wanting to cooperate. The people around him show no sign of wanting to arrest him.

The United States is now just announced new policy of engagement, as well as pressure with Sudan. This whole notion of peace and justice or just plain justice, is it fading? Is it possible -- are we at a crisis point with this idea that you sort of pioneered?

GOLDSTONE: No, no, I certainly don't think so. I think -- I think that the movement forward has been a very -- has been very impressive. When you think where we were 15 or 16 years ago with no international justice at all, at least now we have an up-and-running international criminal court looking into four situations, more -- more, no doubt, down the road. And it's becoming a force that people are talking about, that there's reference to it in the media every day. So I'm optimistic about it.

AMANPOUR: Well, I do want to play you a little bit of sound, what the Sudanese ambassador said when Bashir was indicted.


ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD, SUDANESE AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: We hold Ocampo responsible for -- for -- for what he's doing, and he has to bear the responsibility fully. We are definitely going to take measures. We are definitely going to retaliate. We are definitely going to protect and safeguard our country from this offense and this bad name which Ocampo is trying to inflict on us. And we will do all that in all legal possible means.


AMANPOUR: So that was about a year ago right after the indictment. And they did carry through on their threat. They expelled a lot of humanitarian, more than a dozen aide agencies from Darfur. Now, some of them have come back. But they are sort of leading the agenda, aren't they?

I mean they are saying, well, you've indicted us, we're going to hit back, and, by the way, you can't do anything about it. And we saw this with Karadzic for 13 years, despite 60,000 NATO troops in Bosnia, he wasn't arrested.

GOLDSTONE: And we saw it with Milosevic, as well. You know, Milosevic said pretty much the same thing that the Sudanese ambassador said.

AMANPOUR: So where does that leave us? I mean, for instance, when Ocampo indicted Bashir, there was a lot of criticism, "Oh, don't do this. We've got other big fish to fry. We've got the North-South Sudanese agreement. We've got to get Darfur sorted out." When you indicted Karadzic and Mladic, it was quite close to the Dayton Accords. People were very -- what did people say to you about that?

GOLDSTONE: People were -- people were very critical of me, politicians. The then-Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali was furious when -- when I issued the first indictment against Karadzic and Mladic. He said, "How can you do this? It's going to interfere with the peace process."

AMANPOUR: The U.N. Secretary General?

GOLDSTONE: Yes, absolutely.

AMANPOUR: And it was the U.N. who set up the criminal tribunal.

GOLDSTONE: Absolutely. I said to the U.N. secretary, I'm simply doing the job that the Security Council gave me. He said, "Yes, but you didn't need to do it now."


AMANPOUR: And, of course, people are saying that about your latest report, the Goldstone report. I mean, obviously, we've been talking about the controversy, the hornet's nest that it has really stirred up. But people have also said that -- and certainly the Israelis have said, the government has said -- that this Goldstone report, not only do they reject it, but they said that this is going to negatively impact Middle East peace. How do you -- how do you respond to that?

GOLDSTONE: Well, I don't -- I don't accept that for a moment. I don't believe that truth-telling and putting -- putting -- putting facts on the table could ever really retard an enduring peace process.

AMANPOUR: And yet -- and yet, right now, through the complicated, labyrinthine procedures, your case has been -- or your report has been referred to the Security Council. From what I'm being able to gather, virtually no nation wants it in the Security Council, maybe three nations, not the United States, obviously not Israel, not some of the bigger powers in there. Why not?

GOLDSTONE: Well, because they don't like the International Criminal Court. I think -- I think the big powers, Russia, China, the United States, don't like the idea of -- of -- of the Security Council using the international -- engaging the International Criminal Court.

AMANPOUR: Because some of their soldiers may be -- like NATO soldiers, maybe Russian soldiers from Chechnya?

GOLDSTONE: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: So you think that's -- that's the...

GOLDSTONE: I don't think there's any secret about it. I think they're quite upfront about it.

AMANPOUR: Now, you've also come under a lot of personal criticism. Did you have any idea that you, yourself, your person would be so criticized because of this report on -- on the Israel situation?

GOLDSTONE: Well, I certainly expected some criticism, but -- but not at the -- with the venom and the ad hominem personal attacks that have come out. I've been quite astounded by that.

AMANPOUR: Well, I'm going to play something. You've had some conference calls with various groups of rabbis. I'm going to play something that -- that you felt you had to say on one of these calls.


GOLDSTONE: I grew up in a very typical, upper-middle-class, white South African Jewish home. It was a Zionist home. In the South African Jewish community, there's no split between being Jewish and being Zionist. The two go together and I think are pretty much the two sides of the same coin.


AMANPOUR: Are you having to defend your Jewishness?

GOLDSTONE: Well -- well, not too much. You know, there have been attacks from -- from some of the extreme that have called me a self-hating Jew or even anti-Semitic, which are obviously more than ridiculous allegations to make, having regard to my track record in -- in this area.

But -- but -- but for the rest, it's been -- it's been criticism of -- on the basis that I've -- I've been a traitor to -- to -- to Israel, and I reject that.

AMANPOUR: And in terms of what comes next, your report clearly said that, within six months, the parties, both Israel and Hamas, who you also accused of war crimes, have to come up with some kind of movement on this, have to show that they're going to hold their own -- their own operatives accountable. Has there been any movement at all?

GOLDSTONE: Well, there's been movement certainly on the -- on the Hamas side. I only saw over the weekend the statement issued officially by Hamas saying that -- that they're looking into that recommendation and considering investigations into the rocket and mortar fire and that they wouldn't be averse to -- to -- to having international assistance in doing that.

On the Israeli side, obviously, there have been reports of the cabinet being split between those, I think, led by Dan Meridor, who wants an open investigation, and on the one side, and Defense Minister Barak on the other who's dead against it.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you one last question. Human Rights Watch, that august organization, the former president and founder of that wrote a letter to the Times saying basically that Human Rights Watch, and by extensions others, have moved away from their mandate, that, for instance, he criticizes the Human Rights looking into Israel, saying that the mandate was to look into closed societies, dictatorships, those who have -- who are not democracies, and that they have basically gone away from their mandate by looking into democracies, such as Israel. Do they have a point?

GOLDSTONE: You know, without doubt, no. Democracies, unfortunately, through -- through the years have also committed human rights violations. One doesn't have to look very far from where we're sitting to -- to -- to find examples of violations committed by the United States in recent years.

And -- and -- and why should democracies have a free pass to violate human rights either of the U.N. citizens or citizens of foreign countries?

AMANPOUR: We're going to have to continue this conversation beyond this roundtable, and we will do. Thank you so much for joining us.

GOLDSTONE: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And next, a fresh look at the scope of the massive crime that Radovan Karadzic is accused of committing.



AMANPOUR: And now for our "Post-Script."

Bosnian Serb leader, the former leader, Radovan Karadzic, is accused of ordering ethnic cleansing and the deaths of tens of thousands of people during the war in Bosnia, including more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, and at least 10,000 people who are killed during the siege of Sarajevo.

You can find out more about that and how Karadzic disguised himself to evade capture for more than a dozen years on a timeline on our new-look Web site, Please join us there.

And that's it for now. We'll be back tomorrow with a look -- a new look at the fight to save millions of children from preventable deaths. That's it for all of us here. Goodbye from New York.